By Jeremy Henderson, Army Flier Staff WriterOctober 5, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Small adjustments uniformly implemented have the potential to drastically cut energy costs and, during October, Army officials urge everyone to remember "Energy Resilience Enables Army Readiness."
"The purpose of [Energy Action Month] is to get people to think about the world around them," Randy White, Fort Rucker Directorate of Public Works energy engineer, said. "The population grows every year. More houses are built and more cars are on the road and the demand for energy grows as a result. Energy consumption in the United States and throughout the world, as a result, grows. You get to a point where the energy companies can only produce so much power."
Energy Action Month, observed Army-wide each October, calls upon all Army installations to contribute the goal of continually reducing annual power consumption, fostering energy resilience and boosting readiness.
That's where energy awareness and informed conservation efforts come into play, according to White.
"It's a win-win situation," White said. "When people actively conserve energy, it actually makes our electric rates cheaper in the long run.
"From the Army's perspective, as an example, we spend $1 million a month on electricity," he added. "If we can shave 10 percent of that off, then we reduce the cost by $100,000 in one month. That would end up totaling $1 million in a year's time. That's $1 million to spend on equipment or training."
According to White, Fort Rucker implements a variety of methods for conserving energy ranging from motion-controlled light sources to remotely-monitoring cooling systems for buildings with an Enterprise Systems Integrator and more innovations are on the horizon.
"We are now looking at power strips with a motion detector," he said. "After a set period of time with no one at the desk, the computer monitor will automatically shut off. When you come back in, the motion detector will power the monitor back on.
"It will save a ton of money, but a little bit here and a little bit there all adds up," he added. "We're required to shave our energy consumption 2-2.5 percent a year. We continually strive to reduce our energy consumption."
Fort Rucker's Renewable Energy Project Solar Array, a 90-acre facility containing more than 115,000 solar panels capable of producing up to 10 megawatts of electricity during daylight hours, was completed in April and is capable of powering about 1,600 homes each year.
According to White, air conditioning systems account for a large slice of annual power consumption and homeowners can make substantial cuts to their monthly bill with a few adjustments.
"The biggest thing is to have a programmable thermostat," he said. "You can program the unit to raise or lower the temperature, depending on the time of year, when you are in bed or away from home. Just a few degrees higher or lower can make a noticeable difference in average energy consumption and your monthly bill."
However, White added, consumers should take care not to make the temperature differences too drastic or else the air conditioning system will struggle to make the change and consume more energy in the process.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, consumers can save as much as 10 percent annually on heating and cooling by simply turning their thermostat back 7-10 degrees for 8 hours a day from its normal setting. During the winter, DOE recommends setting thermostats to 68 degrees during waking hours and then lowering it while asleep or away from home.
In the summer, homeowners can follow the same strategy by keeping their house warmer than normal while away. DOE recommends setting the thermostat to 78 degrees only when consumers are at home. According to DOE, the smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower the overall cooling bill will be.
"The savings can be noticeable by simply bumping up the thermostat a few degrees and supplementing with a desk or rotating fan," White said.
Aside from making adjustments to the thermostat, White suggests consumers swap their incandescent or CFL light bulbs with more efficient LED bulbs.
"You actually gain two benefits from switching your bulbs to LED," he said. "LED lights do not use as much energy as incandescent bulbs and, therefore, they introduce less heat into the room. Less heat introduced into a room means less work for the air conditioning system, saving even more money."
According to the DOE, a 40-watt incandescent bulb capable of producing 450 lumens of illumination consumes approximately $4.82 of energy annually. Comparatively, a 9-watt LED bulb produces the same illumination while only consuming approximately $1.08 annually.
Another added factor in overall cost to the consumer, according to White, is the average lifespan of the bulb.
According to the DOE, a 40-watt incandescent bulb's lifespan averages one year whereas a 9-watt LED build can burn up to 20 years, depending on usage.
Consumers can save approximately $75 annually by replacing their home's five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models that have earned the ENERGY STAR rating, according to the DOE.